Everyday Icons: The Bag Designer

Need a swift kick of career inspiration? Meet DeNai Jones, founder of Petunia Pickle Bottom!
denai jones

denai jones Image Credit: Nancy Neil

DeNai Jones followed an inkling to reinvent the diaper bag nearly fifteen years ago and her staggeringly successful business - Petunia Pickle Bottom - has been growing ever since. Moms far and wide flock to this reputable company for their playful patterns and brilliant capabilities, but today, we're focusing on the heart and soul behind the brand: founder DeNai Jones. Hear how DeNai survived the early days of entrepreneurship, and her secret formula for work/life balance in today's Everyday Icon interview below!:

Some credit Petunia Pickle Bottom with creating the first modern woman's diaper bag - a push toward more stylish options for mothers around the country. How have you seen this resurgence of style play out in the everyday lives of mothers and families? How do you think aesthetics can bring joy to parenthood?

Thank you; it’s an honor to be acknowledged as one of the front runners, now almost fifteen years ago. It’s been an amazing journey to see the growth in the now coined, “modern parenting” category, and we are honored to have been a part of helping to make that happen. I’m thrilled parents have the option of no longer choosing diaper bags adorned with blue teddy bears and pink lambs. Now there are elegantly designed parenting products that can align with a mother’s design aesthetic. I also love knowing that we make a woman feel a little bit better about herself when she steps out of the house. As a busy mom of a little one, she may be feeling a bit tired or run down, but being well-put together with beautiful accessories will help put a little spring in her step.

Tell us a bit about your path to success and creativity with all of its winding detours along the way. What were some key highs and lows that you've survived and shined through?

This is a hard question to answer honestly because running a business is consistently riding the peaks and valleys, and ultimately pushing onward. Looking back to the beginning of the business—year 2000, I’d have to say it was definitely a struggle convincing boutiques and department stores that they could sell a diaper bag for $150. Thankfully, we wholeheartedly believed in our product and stayed persistent until we garnered some key accounts that propelled the brand. That high was quickly followed up with a low- how do we keep up with the demand?! So many hats were worn in those early days! We were the shipping department, the bookkeeper, customer service, product designer, production manager—it was a lot of late nights and weekends to say the least. I think because myself, and my two partners Korie (best friend/owner/CMO), and Braden (husband/CEO) worked ourselves to the bone, we appreciate every hire at PPB because we did that job at one point. One particular goal for our brand was to be carried on the shelves at Nordstrom. It took a lot of persistence and follow up, but they finally brought our product in after three years of us knocking on their door. From that point on, we have been there number one selling brand on the floor to this day. I don’t want to discount the loyalty of our boutiques because they are amazing, but one major department store says to our audience that we are a brand to believe in.

What is your advice to a budding entrepreneur juggling a busy life with children and multiple priorities?

In all honesty, we started Petunia Pickle Bottom six years before we had children and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have done both—PPB is our first child. That is a little known fact that most are shocked to hear-- we started a business in the children’s category without having children. The advice I could give would be to dedicate your time intentionally when in the moment. I set my week up so that I have packed days at work and then off days to be a mom, I often work after the kids head to bed at 7:30. It’s a juggling act for sure but you have to set up boundaries and be intentional.

How do you balance your own every day? Which priorities sometimes fall by the wayside, and which do you keep at the forefront of your days?

Every woman tries to keep some sort of balance; I call it “spinning plates.” Personally, my family comes first. A sit down family dinner every night is a big one for me, our family connects and just talks—it's immeasurable. When we had my first son who is now 8 years old, I set a goal to work two days a week in the office. I have an amazing team that prepares for my Tuesday and Thursday to be extremely productive. If I have deadlines and things to catch up on, you can find me down at the office after bedtime a night or two a week. I think most moms can agree that caring for ourselves tends to fall by the wayside in terms of exercise, hobbies, and time for girlfriends. Luckily, I’ve been able to carve out a little time for Pilates once a week, as well as a horseback ride too, which is another one of my passions.

Women talk a lot about high expectations and the pressures of modern day. What are some expectations you seek to lower for yourself and the women around you?

I would agree, when we are inundated with Pinterest, blogs, Instagram and social media, it looks as though everyone else has it easy or sets an unrealistic expectation for us to meet. I often give myself a reality check talk and focus on the joy of our family’s health, our boys, and our friends. Whenever I seem to get wrapped up in trying to do it all, life has a way of jerking me back into reality with what really matters. I think having a strong marriage and close girlfriends has helped me to stay grounded, as there’s accountability there.

What's the best advice you've never followed?

Don’t wear white after Labor Day. My mother has always touted this advice, however I feel color and pattern are seasonless. I do have to say that I have taken all of her other advice though!

What are five everyday products you wouldn't want to live without?

Almond oil for my skin (I use it in the shower for dry skin), Abba hair products, Amore Pacific Moisturizer, lip gloss, and probably mascara since my eyelashes are long but blonde.

p.s. Craving pickles now? Meet the world-famous pickler.